How I Fell in Love with IndyCar

The famed Pagoda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The famed Pagoda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Just back from an exciting weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I met so many interesting people, each one with a unique story. The one question I got most from them was, “How did you get into racing?”.

Here is my answer:

When I first moved to Indianapolis, I had never been to a car race. Nor had I ever watched one on TV. I didn’t even know the difference between a NASCAR and an IndyCar.

I knew the name Mario Andretti. I occasionally used the phrase “pit stop.” And I had at least a vague idea of what it meant. But that was about the extent of my racing knowledge.

My husband (my fiancée at the time) had a suite at the track for Carburetion Day. I went with him for the first time in 2005, primarily to socialize.

When the IndyCar practice started, he took me up in the stands to watch. And I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The cars (which looked more like rockets), were flying around the track. And making a high-pitched wail when they did it. Even the smell of the burning rubber was intoxicating.

I couldn’t stop watching. I started asking all kinds of questions and reading about it in the paper. On race day that Sunday, I listened to the Indy 500 live on the radio. And then watched the tape-delayed broadcast. Dan Wheldon, a young, good-looking British guy won the race. Danica Patrick, a rookie, became the first woman to ever lead a lap. I was hooked. I even watched the banquet on Monday night.

By the following spring, my husband was asking me which teams the drivers were on. I loved the month-long festival atmosphere that was the month of May in Indy. The year I put checkered flags in my flower pots, my husband told me it was official. I was a Hoosier.

The respect I have for the sport, the drivers, the track, and the tradition is immense. Especially for a girl who grew up around horses in Minnesota, not race cars in Indiana.

Still, every time I pull into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and every time I hear an IndyCar zoom around the track, it gives me goosebumps. And it brings me back to my first years in Indianapolis.

As it turns out, a place so rich in history would help me write my own.

I watched qualifications last weekend from pit lane as a credentialed social media blogger for IMS. And I couldn’t help but think about the way it all began.

It was like in Pretty Woman, when Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts to the opera house. He tells her, “People’s reaction to opera the first time they hear it is extreme. They either love it or they hate it. If they love it, they will always love it. If they don’t, they may learn to appreciate it, but it will never become part of their soul.”

On Carb Day 2005, I fell in love with IndyCar.

And it’s been part of my soul ever since.

4 comments

  1. Troy says:

    I caught the racing bug nearly 30 years ago. I watched my first F1 race on ESPN. It was the 1986 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. I was 13 and watching these cars fly around the racetrack in England. Flames shooting out the back from the turbo’s, sparks flying from the undersides of the cars as they bottomed out. At that point I was hooked. Ironically enough it took F1 coming to Indy for me to catch my first F1 race live and in person. The 2002 U.S. Grand Prix and it was a dream come true. The history surrounding the Brickyard I was well familiar with having been a Rick Mears fan for years. TV doesn’t do the great racetrack justice. My best memory from the whole weekend was Saturday afternoon after qualifying. Sitting in the stands with a cold Fosters Lager in my hand in the late afternoon sun watching the Porsche Super Cup cars practice thinking this was what racing was all about.

    • Heather Lloyd says:

      I do think people need to see it live to appreciate. Nothing compares to the speed, the intensity, and the pressure. That’s what you can’t grasp on TV. Love your story. Thanks for sharing!

  2. brent nowostawski says:

    What a great story Heather! Your husband was correct when he he said you were an official Hoosier LOL ! I’m so glad you are! In May 1972 I was 13. There was a Sunoco Service Station 1 block from my house. It was family run and I loved hanging around there. The guy that owned it looked just like my dad and was hard working , knew about cars just like my dad. I loved the Penske/Sunoco/McLarens back then because of this. Gary Bettenhausen and Mark Donohue were the drivers then. When Mark won in ’72 he became my hero. I was devastated when he was killed in 8/1974. I remember being in the backyard,doing yardwork with my dad and the radio cranked up listening to the Indy500. Its not blacked out up here in South Bend anymore , but it was back then. Even before that , The Indy500 was always bigger than life to me. One of my dads 3 jobs was selling Hoosier Racing Tires. He took the family to the time trials (as they used to be called) but I never was there on race day until 1973 with my older brother. I have only missed several since then. In 1977 I lost my girlfriend when prom weekend fell on “Pole Day”. I never understood why they would schedule a prom in Indiana on Pole Day ! LOL The Indy500 has always been my Christmas. I raced a late-model for 10 years in South Bend up until the very early 90’s. I love Notre Dame and all Indiana sports , but IndyCar and The Indy500 is always #1 with me. Theres nothing in the world compares in my opinion !

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